Ho Chi Minh ("Ho the Enlightened"), sometimes known as Nguyen Ai Quoc ("Nguyen the Patriot"), was born Nguyen Tat Thanh in 1890. He remains an ambivalent, enigmatic figure in many ways. Was he a nationalist patriot who found in Communism a way to unify and free his people, or a fanatic Communist who used Vietnamese nationalism as a tool? He led a somewhat precarious political life at points, but always seemed to come out on top eventually.
This is not a political site, and there is no intention to condone or condemn the political and social structures of either protagonist, but perhaps a brief study of the Viet Minh leader's political writings both before, during and after the Indochina War may give some idea of his motivation, and that of his people who suffered such hardships to achieve his aims. Please judge for yourself.
Ho Chi Minh: 'The Path Which Led Me To Leninism' (1960)
After World War I, I made my living in Paris, now as a retoucher at a photographer's, now as painter of 'Chinese antiquities' (made in France!). I would distribute leaflets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Vietnam.
At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books.
The reason for my joining the French Socialist Party was that these 'ladies and gentlemen' - as I called my comrades at that moment - had shown their sympathy toward me, toward the struggle of the oppressed peoples. But l understood neither what was a party, a trade-union, nor what was Socialism nor Communism.
Heated discussions were then taking place in the branches of the Socialist Party, about the question whether the Socialist Party should remain in the Second International, should a Second-and-a-half International be founded or should the Socialist Party join
Lenin's Third International? I attended the meetings regularly, twice or three times a week and attentively listened to the discussion. First, I could not understand thoroughly. Why were the discussions so heated? Either with the Second, Second-and-a-half or Third International, the revolution could be waged. What was the use of arguing then? As for the First International, what had become of it?
What I wanted most to know - and this precisely was not debated in the meetings - was: which International sides with the peoples of colonial countries?
I raised this question - the most important in my opinion - in a meeting. Some comrades answered: it is the Third, not the Second International. And a comrade gave me Lenin's 'Thesis on the national and colonial questions' published by I'Humanité to read.
There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness, and confidence it instilled in me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though
sitting alone in my room, I shouted aloud as if addressing large crowds: 'Dear martyrs, compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!'
After that, I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International.
Formerly, during the meetings of the Party branch, I had only listened to the discussion; I had a vague belief that all were logical, and could not differentiate as to who were right and who were wrong. But from then on, I also plunged into the debates and discussed with fervour. Though I was still lacking French words to express all my thoughts, I smashed the allegations attacking Lenin and the Third International with no less vigour. My only argument was: 'If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?'
Not only did I take part in the meetings of my own Party branch, but I also went to other Party branches to lay down 'my position.' Now I must tell again that Comrades Marcel Cachin, Vaillant-Couturier, Monmousséau, and many others helped me to broaden my knowledge. Finally, at the Tours Congress, I voted with them for our joining the Third International.
At first, patriotism, not yet Communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only Socialism and Communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery,
There is a legend, in our country as well as in China, on the miraculous 'Book of the Wise.' When facing great difficulties, one opens it and finds a way out. Leninism is not only a miraculous 'Book of the Wise', a compass for us Vietnamese revolutionaries and people; it is also the radiant sun illuminating our path to final victory, to Socialism and Communism.
Ho Chi Minh on the Condition of the Peasants in Vietnam (1924)
The Annamese in general are crushed by the blessings of French protection. The Annamese peasants especially are still more odiously crushed by his protection; as Annamese they are oppressed, as peasants they are robbed, plundered, expropriated, and ruined. It is they who do all the hard labour, all the corvees. It is they who produce for the whole horde of parasites, loungers, civilisers, and others. And it is they who live in poverty while their executioners live in plenty, and die of starvation when their crops fail. This is due to the fact that they are robbed on all sides and in all ways by the Administration, by modern feudalism, and by the
Church. In former times, under the Annamese regime, lands were classified into several categories according to their capacity for production. Taxes were based on this classification. Under the present colonial regime, all this has changed. When money is wanted, the French Administration simply has the categories modified. With a stroke of their magic pen, they have transformed poor land into fertile land, and the Annamese peasant is obliged to pay more in taxes on his fields than they can yield him.
One can see that behind a mask of democracy, French imperialism has transplanted in Annam the whole cursed medieval regime, including the salt tax; and that the Annamese peasant is crucified on the bayonet of capitalist civilisation and on the cross of prostituted Christianity.
Founding of the Communist Party of Indochina (February 1930)
Workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, and pupils!
Oppressed and exploited compatriots!
Sisters and brothers! Comrades!
Imperialist contradictions were the cause of the l9l4-18 World War. After this horrible slaughter, the world was divided into two camps: one is the revolutionary camp including the oppressed colonies and the exploited working class throughout the world. The vanguard force of this camp is the Soviet Union. The other is the counterrevolutionary camp of international capitalism and imperialism whose general staff is the League of Nations.
During this World War, various nations suffered untold losses in property and human lives. The French imperialists were the hardest hit. Therefore, in order to restore the capitalist forces in France, the French imperialists have resorted to every underhand scheme to intensify their capitalist exploitation in Indochina. They set up new factories to exploit the workers with low wages. They plundered the peasants' land to establish plantations and drive
them to utter poverty. They levied many heavy taxes. They imposed public loans upon our people. In short, they reduced us to wretchedness. They increased their military forces, firstly to strangle the Vietnamese revolution, secondly to prepare for a new imperialist war in the Pacific aimed at capturing new colonies; thirdly to suppress the Chinese revolution; fourthly to attack the Soviet Union because the latter helps the revolution of the oppressed nations and the exploited working class. World War Two will break out. When it breaks the French imperialists will certainly drive our people to a more horrible slaughter. If we give them a free hand to prepare for this war, suppress the Chinese revolution, and attack the Soviet Union, if we give them a free hand to stifle the Vietnamese revolution, it is tantamount to giving them a free hand to wipe our race off the earth and drown our nation in the Pacific.
However, the French imperialists' barbarous oppression and ruthless exploitation have awakened our compatriots, who have all realised that revolution is the only road to life; without it they will die out piecemeal. This is the reason why the Vietnamese revolutionary movement has grown ever stronger with each passing day: the workers refuse to work, the peasants demand land, the pupils strike, the traders boycott. Everywhere the masses have risen to oppose the French imperialists.
The Vietnamese revolution has made the French imperialists tremble with fear. On the one band, they utilise the feudalists and comprador bourgeois in our country to oppress and exploit our people. On the other, they terrorise, arrest, jail, deport, and kill a great number of Vietnamese revolutionaries. If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terrorist acts, they are utterly mistaken. Firstly, it is because the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletarian class in general and of the French working class in particular. Secondly, while the French imperialists are frenziedly carrying out terrorist acts, the Vietnamese Communists, formerly working separately, have now united into a single party, the Communist Party of Indochina, to lead our entire people in their revolution.
Workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, pupils!
Oppressed and exploited compatriots!
The Communist Party of Indochina is founded. It is the party of the working class. It will help the proletarian class lead the revolution in order to struggle for all the oppressed and exploited people. From now on we must join the Party, help it and follow it in order to implement the following slogans:
APPEAL TO THE ENTIRE PEOPLE
Compatriots all over the country!
As we desired peace we made concessions. But the more we made concessions the further the French colonialists went because they are resolved to invade our country once again.
No! We would rather sacrifice all than lose our country. We are determined not to be enslaved.
Compatriots! Rise up!
Men and women, old and young, regardless of creeds, political parties of nationalities, all the Vietnamese must stand up to fight the French colonialists to save the fatherland. Those who have rifles will use their rifles; those who have swords will use their swords; those who have no swords will use spades, hoes, or sticks. Everyone must endeavour to oppose the colonialists and save his country.
Army men, self-defence guards and militiamen!
The hour for national salvation has struck! We must sacrifice even our last drop of blood to safeguard our country.
Even if we have to endure hardship in the Resistance war, with the determination to make sacrifices, victory will surely be ours.
Long live an independent and unified Vietnam!
Long live the victorious Resistance!
December 20, 1946TWELVE RECOMMENDATIONS
The nation has its root in the people.
In the Resistance war and national reconstruction, the main force lies in the people. Therefore, all the people in the army, administration, and mass organisations who are in contact or live with the people, must remember and carry out the following recommendations:
1. Not to do what is likely to damage the land and crops or spoil the houses and belongings of the people.
2. Not to insist on buying or borrowing what the people are not willing to sell or lend.
3. Not to bring living hens into mountainous people's houses.
4. Never to break our word.
5. Not to give offence to people's faith and customs (such as to lie down before the altar, to raise feet over the hearth, to play music in the house, etc.).
6. Not to do or speak what is likely to make people believe that we hold them in contempt.
1. To help the people in their daily work (harvesting, fetching firewood, carrying water, sewing, etc.).
2. Whenever possible to buy commodities for those who live far from markets (knife, salt, needle, thread, pen, paper, etc.).
3. In spare time, to tell amusing, simple, and short stories useful to the Resistance, but not to betray secrets
4. To teach the population the national script and elementary hygiene.
5. To study the customs of each region so as to be acquainted with them in order to create an atmosphere of sympathy first, then gradually to explain to the people to abate their superstitions.
6. To show to the people that you are correct, diligent, and disciplined.
The above-mentioned twelve recommendations
April 5, 1948